MDN Weekly Update – Oct 23, 2011: Should the EPA Regulate Fracking Wastewater?

poll resultsMDN is somewhat surprised at the poll results from the most recent poll which asked if PA should redefine natural gas as a “mineral right” for purposes of deeds and real estate transactions. Since 1882 it has not been considered a mineral right. If the courts in PA change it now, it is akin to changing the rules in a baseball game at the bottom of the 9th inning with 2 outs. It threatens to throw the drilling industry in PA into chaos as multiple lawsuits will surely be filed and take years to resolve. Still, MDN readers by a convincing majority say such a change should be made.

Should PA courts redefine natural gas as a mineral right?

Yes (46%, 111 Votes)
No (40%, 97 Votes)
Not sure (14%, 33 Votes)

Total Voters: 241

Should fracking wastewater be regulated by the federal EPA?

MDN reported on the EPA’s very loud and clear message this past week that they intend to start regulating where and how fracking wastewater can be disposed (see this MDN story). For years now, the EPA has attempted to control oil and gas drilling by whatever means they can. Traditionally, and by law, oil and gas drilling is left to the states to regulate, not the federal government. But of course that hasn’t stopped the federal government over the years in encroaching on states’ rights. MDN has gone on record numerous times saying the EPA should butt out of what belongs to the states—that the states know best how to regulate their own industry, which is heavily dependent on unique geography—rather than receive a one-size-fits-all mandate from the federal government.

The EPA is currently conducting a multi-year study on hydraulic fracturing, attempting to determine whether or not it’s really a safe technology. That study will not be completed until 2014. In the meantime, they still want to pull the strings and control what happens. This time they are using wastewater disposal from fracking as the method to do it.

The strongest argument for federal control is that water flows across borders—what’s done in one state can and will affect other states. And who better to ensure one state’s “lax” rules don’t injure the environment of another state than the EPA? That’s the argument. The counter-argument is, we already have oversight of waterways that are truly interconnected: It’s called the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) and the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). Both organizations are made up of the states where those mighty rivers flow—including all of the watershed areas and tributaries around those rivers. The commissions are quasi-federal organizations with state representation, and they’re doing a fine job of regulating wastewater disposal, and water usage, in their particular jurisdictions.

Also, while there is still wastewater being produced from fracking, many drillers now recycle 100 percent of the wastewater and reuse it in their fracking operations. So the volume of wastewater that needs disposal is decreasing over time.

What do you think? Are the SRBC and DRBC sufficient to the task of protecting water that flows across borders? Should the federal EPA be involved? Register your vote on the right side of any page on the website.

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

Continue reading